As I was reading a Yahoo! article on banned words, I got to thinking about the use of slang in fiction. As an aspiring fantasy author, my current story being set in a pre-technology society, I sometimes catch myself throwing in modern phrases and metaphors that have no place in the setting that I’ve tried to create. There are times when my two main characters need to use swear words — I mean, they’re teenage boys after all — but which ones would be appropriate without breaking the fantasy? Should I make up my own? I spent months agonizing over whether the characters could call their dad “Dad” or if they needed to call him “Father.” After the first draft, I strategically removed all but one use of the word stupid and replaced it with foolish, thinking that sounded more timeless.
But even in fiction that is set in modern times in our own world, the use of modern slang and technology will date your story. I got a real kick out of reading “Eternal” by Cynthia Leitich Smith, in which guardian angels send memos to each other, a character starts a website to help track down a friend who’s disappeared, and frequent reference is made to various literary fandoms. Those details are a sign of the times; you won’t catch Nancy Drew using Google to find the secret of the old clock. Twenty plus years from now, will those now modern details still work? Does it matter? Should some slang be omitted simply because it’s not literary? There is already concern over literacy levels dropping due to poor spelling and grammar in emails and text messages… What does it say about a society that allows “brb” and “c u l8r” to infiltrate their literature? Your thoughts?
By the way, Happy New Year!